President Obama Devotes Comments in Second Inaugural Address to Environment, Labor

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President Barack Obama takes the public oath office on Monday, Jan. 21: White House

By Glynn Wilson

President Barack Obama placed his hand on two Bibles — one used by Abraham Lincoln and another by Dr. Martin Luther King — and recited the brief oath of office on Monday, while First Lady Michelle Obama held the Bibles one on top of the other as their daughters Malia, Sasha, a viewing stand of dignitaries and the nation looked on.

While most of the early reporting on Mr. Obama’s second inauguration focused on economic issues, he devoted one section to the 20 minute speech to science and the environment and vowed to take on the fight against global warming and climate change.

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Mr. Obama said. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”

The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult, the president said.

“But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise,” he said. “That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

In response to the president’s remarks, Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, issued a statement saying the group is “heartened” by President Obama’s remarks and “his renewed vow to respond to the threat of climate disruption.”

“Indeed, in America, our possibilities are limitless, and the Sierra Club’s 2.1 million members and supporters urge the president to cement our nation’s position as the global clean energy leader by going all in on sustainable energy, holding polluters accountable, and rejecting the dangerous tar sands pipeline,” Brune said. “We will work tirelessly to ensure the transition to safe, clean energy sources to fight the most pressing challenge of our time.”

As the first African-American president in American History, the president’s comments featured a nod to the down trodden, those lower down on the economic spectrum, often discriminated against, and to organized labor.

“For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class,” the president said. “We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship.”

Monday’s oaths were ceremonial only, according to the official AP story, since the U.S. Constitution stipulates that presidents begin their new terms at noon on Jan. 20. Mr. Obama was officially sworn in Sunday in a small ceremony at the White House. Because inaugural celebrations are historically not held on Sundays, organizers pushed the public events to Monday.

Watch the video of Monday’s public swearing in.

Read the full text of the speech and watch the video of the official swearing in here.

© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.